When Cardinal Newman became a Catholic he said, ‘This is real religion.’

There is something hard about Catholicism, and ‘hard’ means both ‘concrete’ and ‘difficult’. Catholicism is a nitty gritty, down to earth, common sense sort of faith. Other versions of the Christian faith indulge in utopianism or fancy theories or some sort of good idea. Catholicism is a tough old gal who squints and says, ‘Show Me’.

Oh, we have mystics and visionaries, prophets, healers and dreamers, but each one has to be tried. They have to stand the test of time and the test of persecution. Suffering makes their glory gritty. Padre Pio and St Francis bear the stigmata.

This realism of the Catholic Church is everywhere–in every detail, nook and cranny the glories of heaven are made gritty by reality. In the life of every saint, in the liturgy, the politics, the prayer and the beauty the raw reality of Catholicism glows like an ember.

It is even there in Canon Law. Why do we have Canon Law? Because we have an incarnational faith. Matter matters. Details matter. When the church puzzles over a difficult marriage or decides on a tricky point of canon law she’s doing her work. She’s realizing that the glory is gritty, that heaven comes to earth in a stable, and that Love wears working clothes.